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PC Elite, PCHS’ rocket team, blasts off

By Nicole Burns for the FCT


Phil Campbell High School’s first rocket team is really getting off the ground.

The team is called PC Elite, and students work on both rocketry and robots. PC Elite recently attended the team’s first competition workshop hosted by UNA. The University of North Alabama has taken on the task of being the Team America Rocket Challenge hub for Alabama.

Last year, 13 Alabama rocketry teams competed in TARC. This year, with UNA on board, more Alabama teams, such as the PC Elite, are participating. “UNA, with assistance from Lee Brownell, has really made joining TARC easy to do and an easy process to go through,” said PC Elite Sponsor and PCHS teacher Jonathan Grimes. “Without them, each team would have to do everything themselves, including scheduling official launches and getting the appropriate officials there.”

In the first workshop, students learned about rocket simulation software, called Open Rocket, and rocketry vocabulary. Grimes said, “The students seemed a little lost at first with the simulation software, but when it came to getting their hands dirty and building the rocket, they loved that.”

Since it was the team’s first workshop in the new-to-them rocket challenge, they were unsure on what to expect from their experience. “We were surprised when we found out that UNA AMSTI East Campus had gotten sponsors that allowed us to build, launch and recover our very own rocket,” Grimes said.

PC Elite’s rocket shot up about 200 feet in the air before parachuting down. Grimes said the launch and flight lasted less than 30 seconds, but it’s a half-minute these students won’t soon forget. “Their faces were the best. It wasn’t just the rocket that got off the ground that day. I believe those students have a new appreciation and interest in science because of it,” Grimes said.

UNA scheduled five rocketry workshops throughout the year to add to the experience. The final competition will be scheduled in the spring of 2016.